The Autumnal Equinox
In 2014, the Autumnal Equinox for the northern hemisphere begins on September 22 at 10:29 P.M. EDT. (September 23 1:30 am PST)
The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night.” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun crosses the celestial equator. For us that means as autumn progresses temperatures begin to decline, the daylight begins to wane and the hours of darkness wax around us. This seasonal change happens because of Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt. The fall and winter seasons happen at those latitudes when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. It also means warm sweaters, crackling fires, hot apple cider and pumpkin pie!
Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season. However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of harvesting a crop, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season. Here in Culver, farmers have indeed been harvesting hay and alfalfa.
Unlike other parts of the country, Central Oregon doesn’t have the explosion of color from deciduous trees in the fall. Here we have to look for pockets of golden aspen or cottonwood. Oregon Grape leaves change to crimson and dogwood stems turn a deep reddish-purple; while deer and songbirds feast on the last red currents, blue Juniper berries and bright orange rose hips of the season. It’s almost as fun as a treasure hunt!
“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
Even after being here almost a year now, I still have to stop in awe when the bald eagles are out. Today is beautiful at The Cove, mid-seventies, light breeze, sunny, blue sky and two bald eagles flying around near the Crooked River Day-Use Area. It’s a sight that never gets old! Have a great weekend!
Fall at The Cove is a beautiful time of year. Temperatures are comfortable, the park is uncrowded and trees in the Crooked River Campground are turning golden and scarlet. Mule deer bucks are coming out for rutting season, the turkey vultures are still playing in the thermals and bunnies abound.
If you are a non-motorized boater now is the time to get out on the lake for awe-inspiring views, quiet waters and gentle breezes. Fisherman, come throw a line in and relax! Hiking the Tam A Lau Trail in the fall awards you an energizing and invigorating experience.
The full harvest moon is extra big as it’s a super moon this month but once it disappears the milky way is glittering across the park. Saturn and Mars are shining bright. With luck, you may even catch a glimpse of one of the three western screech owls that were born in the Deschutes Campground this year.
The Marina still has fishing boats and non-motorized boats for rent thought the end of September. For more information http://covepalisadesresort.com/
The Deschutes Campground – B Loop closes September 15, A & C Loops close September 30th. The Crooked River Campground – portions of E Loop are open year round; however there are no operational full hook ups in the winter.
The log cabins at The Cove will be closed October 12 – February 28 for utility upgrades and cabin repairs.
Campers don’t forget that the Discovery Season for all Oregon State Parks starts October 1st – April 30th. Get reduced rates on campsites, full & partial hook up sites yurts and cabins. For more information or to reserve your site http://www.oregonstateparks.org
You may remember last year Culver High School S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) class designed and built a hydroelectric powered paddle-wheel that will power a portion of the Crooked River Campground. Well they did not stop there.
This year biology teacher Mike Dove, Culver High School, is leading his AP biology class into the dark and mysterious world of bats. Mr. Dove invited me to be a guest speaker on local bats for his class. What an amazing group of students! With their new found knowledge the seniors were inspired to create their own power points to share; then took a trip to Culver Elementary School and visited Mrs. Dix’s first grade class. Peer teaching is an amazing way to learn about how cool bats are. This was the first of several times the two classes will work together. Next, the first graders visited Culver High School’s wood shop and built 12 bat houses. The first graders made and sold bat cookies at recess to help finance the project. Mr. Dale Crawford’s High School Agriculture students came to The Cove and put in three 16 foot poles to hang the bat houses on. Finally as an end of the year field trip, all the kids visited The Cove Palisades State Park Crooked River Wetlands Area to hang the bat houses. Our new park stewards have created important new wildlife habitat for more than a thousand bats! While the first graders waited for their houses to be hung, they learned firsthand how bats use echolocation to find their prey in the near dark of night. The final portion of the project will be an interpretive panel that park staff will install when it is finished. The panel will detail the project, show the children’s art work and educate visitors about the importance of bats in the park.
So why you might ask is this important? Bats are among the least appreciated but most beneficial of mammals, they are a vital part of entire ecosystems – and worth literally billions of dollars to the world economy. Bats in Culver are important in numerous ways. The most important reason is natural pest control. A single little brown bat can eat between 600 – 1000 mosquitoes in an hour which lessens the chance of West Nile Virus spreading to humans. Just think of the millions of dollars farmers save in crop damage every year and the gallons of toxins that we are spared from releasing into the environment. Worldwide bats are important pollinators, humans derive 80 different medicines from plants that rely on bats for pollination. A clot-dissolving protein which is found in the vampire bat’s saliva is used in heart patients. They can regenerate entirely decimated rainforest ecosystems through seed dispersal. Their guano is used for organic gardening, in gunpowder and explosives used in by NASA. The next time you drink your morning coffee you may have a bat to thank for that!
Thanks to Culver Elementary and Culver High School for your dedication and commitment to the STEM program. The Cove Palisades State Park would like to thank the teachers and students for your creativity and hard work.
WARNING TO PARK USERS – USE CAUTION WITH FIRE
The west is prime for a busy and deadly fire season this year; and Oregon is no exception. The snow pack from this winter is well below average in many areas and several counties within Central Oregon District have declared drought emergencies. Precipitation over the last 90 days has been near or below average, and warm, dry weather is expected to continue. As a result we are quickly approaching high fire danger levels when a fire that starts can get big very quickly.
The Oregon Department of Forestry has set Monday, June 9, 2014 as the beginning of wildfire season for Central Oregon, 5 days earlier than last year which turned out to be the worst season on state protected land in 60 years. The number of fires and acres burned isn’t necessarily the best gauge of how bad a fire season can get: Although 2013 saw a record-low number of wildfires nationwide, it was one of the deadliest for firefighters. The U.S. Forest Service says the wildfire season now averages 78 days longer than it did in the mid-1980s.
People heading out to recreate on public lands during fire season need to check fire and weather conditions. Checking in advance is a routine precaution that campers should exercise every summer during fire season, if for no other reason than road closures are always possible. Campers need to obey all closures and restrictions, no matter how inconvenient they may be. Be prepared to change your travel plans quickly when the situation warrants. Keep in mind that you may not be able to cook food the way you had planned.
Boaters may find lakes, reservoirs, or rivers closed if fire fighting helicopters need to fill buckets or tanks from the water.
While we can’t control the weather that leads to lightning-caused fires, everyone can do their part to prevent human-caused fires. If you have a campfire, please take these precautions to limit the potential for disaster:
- Make small camp fires only in designated fire rings.
- Make sure all firewood is inside your fire ring, no limbs hanging out of the sides.
- Educate young campers not to play with fire or run around with burning sticks.
- Do not burn garbage
- Do not add gasoline, diesel or lighter fluid to get a wood fire started.
- Do not leave your campfire unattended.
- When you leave, make sure your fire is dead out – mix with water or dirt – if it’s too hot to put your hand over, it’s not out.
- If conditions are unsafe, do not light a campfire.
- Make sure you charcoal BBQ’s are on a firm, flat, surface.
- Cover charcoal BBQ’s
- Do not dump hot coals in garbage cans or in vegetation areas.
- Use caution if you have to park in or next to dried grass.
- Do not smoke on trails.
Oregon residents are strongly encouraged to contact their local fire protection agencies for additional burning information and specifics regarding any regulations on the use of chain saws, warming fires, BBQs or ATVs.
In 1995 the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) reintroduced wolves into the United States from Canada to Yellowstone National Park and the State of Idaho. The wolves have been steadily moving westward, increasing their populations and territory. Once hunted to extinction in the State of Oregon, by 2000 wolves were here again. A success story to be sure, but no one expected the human interest story of a lone grey wolf his search for his place in the world.
OR-7, also known as “Journey,” a tagged, young, male, grey wolf from the Imnaha pack in the northeast section of Oregon had wanderlust. In 2011, he was a two-year old seeking his own territory and a mate to call his own, OR-7 endeavored on a three year journey walking thousands of miles across the state, stopping briefly in Central Oregon, and headed south to California. As he walked farther and farther away from any known wolves; many thought he was making a futile trip, where only loneliness awaited him. Journey wandered into Northern California in December of 2011 making him the first wild wolf to walk on California soil since 1924. For a time it seemed that he couldn’t find where he belonged but last year he returned to Oregon. His amazing trek made that much more amazing by the fact that, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he did not attack any livestock along the way. In May of this year, a black female grey wolf was spotted (it is still unclear where she is from) in the same general location and it appeared that Journey had finally found a mate. The pair established a territory in the southern Oregon Cascades in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. It wasn’t until June 5th when officials reported two wolf pups, approximately 5-6 weeks old, had been located in a fallen log. It is possible that there are still others. “Litters are typically four to six,” said Michelle Dennehy, ODFW spokeswoman in Salem.
There are mixed reactions to the new family; from excitement to trepidation. “This is very exciting news,” Paul Henson, state supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. “It continues to illustrate that gray wolves are being recovered.” Rob Klavins, northeast Oregon field representative for Oregon Wild said, “This demonstrates that wolves are surprisingly resilient and, given a chance, they can do pretty well.” But ranchers are concerned that a new pack could spell trouble for them in the future. Education will be key for the two to coexist in the future. Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials have offered advice to ranchers for mitigating potential conflicts. For the time being, Journey’s wanderlust is no more and his new family will start a new chapter in wildlife conservation in the American West.
For more information on grey wolves or to report sightings go to http://www.dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/index.asp